It’s 9:24, my fingers hit send on a text
High off a win, it’s a good night
I stare out the window and watch the Wisconsin countryside fly by
I wonder to myself,
When will I get a reply?
All of a sudden, a thundering boom rips me away from my thoughts
I jolt forward into a grey leather wall, my glassy eyes wide open in fear
My reflexes instantly take over, my hands brace me against the brisk material
I hear a scream
Is that my scream?
Wails and whimpers flood my ears
I turn towards the noise, it’s behind me
I can’t see the source of the crying
It’s so dark
When did it get so dark?
My phone is still clutched in my hand
I turn it on for a flashlight
There, it’s not so dark anymore
The girl in front of me wails,
“Where’s my phone?”
Someone yells, “We have blood back here!”
I am in shock, I can’t move
The bus has finally stopped sliding
My head is pounding, all I can think is,
What just happened?
The coaches walk to the back
They check on us, ask if we’re okay
And then they tell us
We hit a car
We hit a car?
I sit in my seat and turn forward
I am surrounded by 20 other girls
They are all filled with terror and worry
But I am calm, my face a blank mask
Why am I so calm?
The voice next to me croaks, “Where’s my blanket?”
I realize that I have it
It’s covering my shivering legs, I can’t feel my toes
It’s so cold
When did it get so cold?
There is no power, we are told
A brand-new bus only lasted a week
Someone jokes about not having to worry about picking up garbage
when we get off
like we normally do
If the bus is so badly damaged, then
How bad is the damage to the car?
Screeching sirens deafen my ears
Flashing red and blue lights blind me eyes
A helicopter hums in the distance
It feels like I am in the middle of a crime scene, like on T.V.
Is the accident really this serious?
EMTs hop aboard, they tell us to stay in our seats
The ones we were sitting in when the accident happened
Accident. The realization that we were in an accident now dawns on me
This is serious
What’s going to happen now?
The EMTs begin to make their way to the back
They announce that anyone with head or neck pain needs to be checked out
Some girls are ushered off the bus to get looked over
My friend is led into an ambulance, they shut the doors on her
Why would they shut the doors?
I panic now, they must be taking her to the hospital
But later I learned that they only shut the doors
So the girl couldn’t see the horrifying sight
Of the mutilated car
Why wouldn’t they want her to see the car?
The coaches tell us to call our parents
I dial the familiar numbers and my mother’s voice answers
I tell her we were in an accident and she needs to come get me
I am calm, my voice doesn’t tremble once
Why am I so calm when others aren’t?
Two ladies walk down the aisle
They need to take our information
Names, birthdays, addresses, parents’ names,
parents’ birthdays, parents’ phone numbers
When the lady gets to me, I spit out the information automatically
Why do they need to know these details?
They tell us that we need to stay on the bus
My sense of time has vanished
I don’t know how long we’ve been here—it feels like only minutes
All I know is that I want to go home
Where are my parents?
Girls start to check out and leave
I start to get anxious, I am so drained
I just want to go home
I call my mom again, she says she can see the lights
Is the scene really that big?
My backpack is missing
I look under the seats, it’s nowhere
It finally appears sitting on another seat, but not where I had left it
The zipper is wide open, but everything sits tightly packed inside, as it was before
How is everything still intact after enduring the lurch forward?
As I finally exit the bus,
Coach tells me no practice tomorrow
This seems like the most obvious thing in the world to me
Am I allowed to laugh in a crisis like this?
When I get outside, I notice the spiderweb crack on the windshield
This surprises me for some reason
I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect visible damage
And for the first time I wonder,
How many people were in the other car?
Before I am allowed to leave, the first responders need my seat number
I can’t remember exactly where I was sitting
I try to describe to the lady where I was
She is crabby and getting impatient, she doesn’t understand what I am trying to tell her
Why is she rushing me?
The next thing I know, a firefighter is walking me down the road
I’m grateful my mom always tells me to bring my mittens, they came in handy tonight
I have never felt more alone as I walk down the middle of Highway 48
The short walk feels like an eternity
How much farther must I go?
At last I see my mom
I run into her arms and hold her tight
I know that I am safe now
I am so thankful for my family
Was there a family in that other car?
My dad walks me over to our car,
As I open the door, heat rushes out and instantly warms my cheeks
My frozen body thaws as I sit in the car and wait for my parents while they check on kids, performing their teacherly duties
I don’t feel so good, my stomach hurts
Why are my parents taking so long?
My face is wet, I am crying for the first time
There is someone inside my head, pounding on my skull
I tell myself that I’m fine, just in shock
I can’t remember,
Did I even hit my head?
I start to have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach
I can feel it, the other person didn’t survive
A car is no match for a bus
We are so lucky
Do I realize how lucky we are?
My phone vibrates
I got a reply to my text
That seemed like a lifetime ago when I sent out three little words
So much has happened, so much has changed
Why did this have to happen?
Days after, my head still throbs
Things will never be the same
Not for the 20 girls on a bus, or a lady just trying to get home for the holidays
And all I can think to myself is,